Friday, May 11, 2012

MWC 2012 (Wrote this a while ago and just found it)

Mobile World Congress (MWC) is upon us again and as usual there are quite a few new releases from the major manufacturers (please note I am not in Barcelona and my comments are based on information from various tech sites such as The Verge and Android Central). The strongest showings this year seem to have been from HTC, Asus and Nokia.

HTC has finally taken stock of their phone company and decided to release fewer devices leading to an overall higher quality. HTC has unified its branding with the HTC One series devices each identified by a superscript letter. This rethink of HTC’s strategy seems to borrow heavily from the current king of Android, Samsung with its Galaxy line of hardware. The HTC phones launched at MWC bring back the focus on beautiful design and great products HTC has previously been known for, however I still have a problem with their “Sense” overlay. When Android first came out it was not as polished as its competitors in terms of the user interface and HTC created a dazzling UI that patched quite a few holes left by stock Android. Successive iterations of the Android operating system created solutions to many problems that “Sense” solved and over time “Sense” became bloated causing great devices to suffer from poor performance as resources were redirected to the proprietary skin. The bloating of “Sense” was painful to watch from the outside however it allowed newer Android users safety from what many considered an ugly UI. Android 4.0 has completely redesigned the UI and now in my opinion in looks superior to any proprietary skin that could be placed on it, which is why I do not understand the newest iteration of the “Sense” brand. Up until this point skins helped to cover a UI only nerds could love with some eye candy at the cost of performance and now once we have a more mature platform that anyone can enjoy HTC has decided that the look of Android 2.3 is the future of their line of devices. HTC has stripped out the new docks at the bottom of the screen and replaced them with what looks to me to be a reproduction of the dock found in previous Android versions and most prominently in Gingerbread.

Asus is very highly regarded in the tech industry for their great computers and has created a strong presence for itself in the tablet market with the innovative docking tablet the Transformer Pad. Asus has started to think even further out of the box on its creation that was announced last year and finally come to fruition this week, the PadPhone. Asus has created a smartphone that docks with a tablet which in turn can dock into a keyboard which when combined create a megazord  device with 9x the original battery life of the smartphone while increasing the productivity aspects found in Android. The phone itself looks fantastic and appears to have very little skinning overtop of 4.0, the tablet/keyboard docks also look very similar to previous outings by Asus and I think this could be a viable competitor to a traditional system. This concept is very interesting and I think we will see a trend towards docking devices like this over the next few years as we move further into the post-PC space. As more and more OS’s are merging with their mobile counterparts it makes sense to have one device that can be used in many different ways. As much as I like the concept of the PadPhone I still enjoy having the physical separation of my phone and other devices even though I would like my information to be available across my devices, maybe that is going to be out of fashion but for now I enjoy having multiple devices.

Nokia has been working hard to create fantastic Windows Phone devices and in just one quarter has become the largest Windows Phone manufacturer, their presence at MWC has been very significant to say the least however a phone they announced for a dying platform is aiming to be the belle of the ball. Nokia shocked the media at MWC with a brand new Symbian device that has a 41MP camera. Let that sink in 41MP. Now forget that because in reality this will not be a 41MP shooter, it will be more like a 5 MP on steroids. In the digital camera world more MP means a sharper image so long as the size of the lens can accommodate all the extra pixels. On a mobile device the sensor for the camera is not nearly big enough for anything much larger than 8-12 MP as it is simply too many for clarity. What Nokia has done here is created a sensor that will incorporate about 7 pixels into one to create the equivalent of a 5MP shot, however this will create for some absolutely stunning pictures. Obviously the 41MP part is a very clever bit of marketing as people will see it and think more is better but this camera will still be better just not for the reason the end user has in mind. My biggest question is why put such great technology on a platform that has been left to die? I realize that it will help sell those phones but last I heard Nokia was planning to be all in with Windows Phone, why not stick this sensor on one of those phones and see how quickly it raises the profile of the entire OS and brings proper marketshare to a critically acclaimed system?